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Makapu'u Head later climbed Fri, Dec 30, 2016|
I was up at 5a and to the TH off Tantalus Rd in less than an hour. I picked this not because it was the shortest route, but because it offered an easy chance to bag Tantalus, a prominent summit overlooking Honolulu. Greek mythology on a Hawaiian island - can't pass up that opportunity! Tantalus Rd winds its way up the hills behind Honolulu, climbing more than 700ft in several miles. The home along the way are mostly well-to-do folks, though some are older and more run down, particularly those near the top at the edge of the forest reserve. The ground grows wetter the higher one goes - this is the leeward side of the range, but clouds often pass over the crest and linger here, leaving things very wet and very green.
I started up the Pu'u Ohia Trail and right from the start it was a mudfest. I danced around the muddy sections as I always do at the start, but my boots would be ankle deep in the stuff before the outing was through. Keeping boots dry on the islands is proving to be a challenge. The trail starts off through a dense bamboo forest before shortly reaching a paved road. The trail continues to the right, but I first turned left and climbed to the top of Tantalus. The summit featured an old concrete/rock structure almost exactly like one I had seen on Molokai a few days earlier, constructed it seems by surveyors in the 1930s. Surprisingly, there was a view to the south towards Honolulu and the coast. To the east, rose the higher ridges leading to the main crest of the range, buried deep in clouds.
I went back down the road and continued on the trail, passing through a couple gates in a pig fence before eventually landing at the Nu'uanu Lookout at the two mile mark. A sign signifies the trail ends here, but it's only the beginning of the real adventure. Though some tall, overgrown bushes one must push through for about 20ft until the trail opens up and has been obviously groomed. The Oahu Hiking Club does a fine job of keeping these adventure routes open. The brushy start is simply to discourage random visitors from venturing beyond their means.
The trail follows a subsidiary ridge for a mile and a half to the main crest. In dry conditions (rare) it has spectacular views and not terribly difficult. In wetter conditions the tread is slick and muddy and often treacherous. Ropes have been installed to help with the steeper, slickest portions of the route and like the previous day, they were a welcome sight and I used them shamelessly. It rained on and off the whole way to and from the lookout. There were fleeting views through the clouds, always impressive, but fleeting nonetheless. I put on a rain jacket and tucked my camera out of the way when the drizzle turned to more of a light rain. Though the elevation gain was not as relentless as Kaala, the extra wet conditions, boggy mud traps slicker trail conditions made it harder. I spent just over three hours to reach the summit, about 2mi past the lookout. There were no views, not even fleeting to be had for the 4/10mi traverse back and forth between the two summits. What I could see in the clouds was that the ridge drops away dramatically for hundreds of feet on the windward side, sometimes steeply on both. The trail nicely runs along this sharp edge but it's not the same as a knife-edge and there's plenty of vegetation to make one feel fairly secure. Heading back down was more dicey than going up, but the ropes again were a big help. I took my time on both the way up and down, slipping only a few times but enough to help drive the mud into the seat of my pants and my pack. Such fun!
By the time I got back down to the lookout I was pretty much soaked from the waist down, damp elsewhere. My feet were not complaining about the elevation gain today, but rather the wet conditions - and they let me know they weren't happy about it. I plodded my way back to the car when the strongest shower of the morning started up - just for good measure it wanted to make me feel I was in the real Hawaii.
Finishing up before noon, I drove back to the hotel where I took a shower and set my stuff out to start drying. I had a big lunch and rested a bit, eventually deciding to head back out for more. Easier stuff, this time.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Konahuanui - Kohelepelepe
This page last updated: Fri Dec 30 17:28:20 2016
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